Sarasota Fishing Calendar
In this article I am going to provide a Sarasota fishing calendar. This is basically a Sarasota fishing forecast. It is based on my more than 30 years experience fishing in Sarasota.
Anglers will find a terrific Sarasota fishing calendar and forecast here. While every year is different, throughout the years Sarasota seasonal fishing patterns hold up. Warm winters, stormy summers, when, red tide, and other factors affect fishing. However, in my 27 years of running Sarasota fishing charters, I see that the patterns replicate themselves. I will share those patterns in a month by month report.
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so on the PRODUCTS page.
Sarasota fishing in January
Fishing in January is all about the weather. There will be days when it’s 80° and sunny. There will be days when it’s cold, blustery, and windy. In order to be successful in January, anglers need to adapt to the prevailing conditions. Fronts will move through regularly, resulting in dirty water in the passes and on the nearby flats.
If it has been a cold month, some species will have moved back into the deeper water of creeks and residential canals. Snook and jacks in particular will seek the warmer water in the upper ends of canals and creeks. Anglers casting lures such as plugs that cover a lot of water are effective. Trolling is also a good way to locate fish, especially jacks.
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Bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, drum, and other species will be found around docks and other structure. Deeper water and some of the canals as well as in the passes will hold these fish. Big Sarasota Pass has a ton of structure on the north end of Siesta Key and also has deep water. This will hold bottom species all month long. Strong cold fronts will bring wind which will dirty up the water in the passes. When this occurs, it is best to fish the protected areas where the water will be cleaner.
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Fishing the deep flats will be cyclical in January. Several days after a front moves through, the water on the flats will clear up and warm up. This should result in decent action for speckled trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species. Anglers casting lead head jig’s and live shrimp will do well. If the water temperature is low, below 60°, speckled trout will be found in deeper water. Channels and holes near the flats will attract them.
Sarasota fishing in February
February is usually a tale of two months. The early part of the month is winter, but by the end of the month we are seeing hints of spring. The sheepshead run is in full swing and fish are loaded up in the passes and out on the nearshore artificial reefs. I target them a lot for clients who want a couple fish to eat. The flats and passes can be productive as well. Snook and jack crevalle will begin to migrate out of the creeks and canals as it warms up.
The rocks in Big Pass hold a lot of sheepshead in February. This is pretty easy fishing. It is basic bottom fishing, where we drop a hook baited with a shrimp down to the bottom and wait for a bite. The great part about it is that anglers was very little experience can catch some nice fish. It is best to fish the pass during times of low or moderate current flow. It is difficult to anchor and control the baits when the tide is flowing hard. Docks throughout the entire area will hold sheepshead in February.
Phillippi Creek in the residential canals will still be productive for jacks and snook. Rapala plugs and soft plastic baits work well. As it begins to warm up, the fish will migrate and will be found closer to the mouths of the creeks and canals.
Action on the deep grass flats will start to be more reliable by the end of February. As fronts become less common and less severe, water clarity will stabilize and the temperature will rise. Submerge grass beds in 6 feet of water to 10 feet of water will hold many species. Speckled trout, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and more will be taken on lures and live bait.
Sarasota fishing in March
March can be a great month to be fishing in Sarasota! It is springtime, and as is true in most fishing, fishing can be very good. Rising water temperatures will have fish moving out of their winter hunts and scattering out onto the flats and in the passes. Migratory fish such as Spanish mackerel and false albacore will show up as well. The occasional front will still move through, and anglers will experience some windy days. But, the really cold morning should be gone.
Action and the passes should be very good in March. Sheepshead should still be plentiful, though winding down by the end of the month. Anglers drifting the passes with jigs will catch ladyfish, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, and more. Often times, surface action will be seen as ladyfish and Spanish mackerel forage on the surface.
Fishing on the grass flats should be very good as well. The deep flats will have speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, ladyfish and other species. Lead head jig’s and live shrimp are the top baits. As in the passes, surface activity will be seen occasionally. This is a good opportunity to cast a shallow diving plug or a 1/2 ounce silver spoon.
Snook and jacks will be on the shallow flats in Roberts Bay and in Sarasota Bay. Oyster bars and mangrove shorelines that have a little depth will hold these game fish. Anglers casting artificial lures can cover the water much more quickly and effectively. Search baits such as plugs and weedless spoons are a great choice.
The inshore Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches can provide anglers with fantastic action when conditions are right in March. Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, sharks, and cobia migrate up the coast. They are right behind the huge schools of bait fish such as sardines and herring. When the seas are flat and the water is clear these fish will often feed on the surface. It is very exciting casting into schools of breaking fish.
Sarasota fishing in April
April is a fantastic month to be fishing in Sarasota, Florida! Fish have solidly moved into their spring migration patterns. Severe cold fronts are a thing of the past. There will be fronts move through, perhaps bringing some wind and rain. However, with water temperature in the 70s the bite will be on. Just about every species is available this month.
The Sarasota flats are alive with life in April. The deep flats provide excellent action on speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, pompano, and more. Anglers drifting and casting lures or live bait do well. Many fish species are in spawning mode this time of year. For the most part, they are aggressive and in a mood to feed.
Anglers fishing the shallow flats and backwater areas will do well on snook, redfish, jacks, and larger gator trout. These fish will be found in potholes (depressions in the grass flat) as well as along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars. Top water plugs are great fun on the high tide stages. Shallow diving plugs, spoons, and jigs are good artificial lures. Large live shrimp fished under docks will produce all these species and more.
The passes will be full of fish in April as well. Though the sheepshead will have thinned out as a completed there spawning run. Mangrove snapper and other bottom fish will be available in the structure. However, most of the fish in the passes will be caught by anglers drifting through the pass itself. Pompano, mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and more will be caught by anglers drifting jigs and live bait.
Action out on the beach will be good early, then tapering off by the end of the month. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore will feed heavily on the beach and out on the artificial reefs. If it has been a warm spring, some tarpon may be showing up by the end of the month.
Sarasota fishing in May
May means one thing to many Sarasota anglers; tarpon! Giant tarpon show up in May off of the Sarasota beaches and stay until late July. Many consider tarpon fish in the ultimate angling challenge. This is a game that requires patience is anglers sit a couple hundred yards offshore in search of fish. Once seen, anglers cast live crabs and bait fish to them in hopes of a bite. It is not easy, but when it all comes together, it is the thrill of a lifetime!
Inshore fishing techniques change a bit in May. As the water warms up, schools of bait fish show up on the flats. We transition from casting lures and live shrimp to catching this bait in our cast nets. The bait is then used to chum fish to the boat as well is to catch them. Lures can still be productive, especially early and late in the day. Pin fish become abundant on the flats. That can make using live shrimp a bit frustrating.
Snook will be moving in May as well. They will school up in both passes as well as out on the beaches. They do this is part of there spawning ritual. By late May, the rocks in Big Sarasota Pass will be a reliable spot to catch snook. There should also be plenty of fish out on the beach as well.
Sarasota fishing in June
June is a bit of a transition month. It is summer time and it is hot! Anglers fishing the inshore waters get out there early and are done by noon at the latest. Water temperatures will often approach 90°. This is especially true before the afternoon rains calm and cool the water off a bit.
Chumming with live bait is the number one inshore technique in June and really all summer long. Bait fish are usually abundant on the beaches and on the shallow grass flats just inside the passes. If the water gets too warm, bait can be difficult to catch. Once the well is loaded, the boat is anchored up and handfuls of bait fish are tossed out in the water behind the boat. If game fish are around, it isn’t long before they are popping the baits. Then it is just a matter of hooking baits on and casting them out.
Tarpon fishing is in full swing in June. The periods before the full moon and the new moon are the prime times. Boat traffic is heavy as many anglers are targeting these apex game fish. One nice thing about fishing in June is that with so many anglers out on the beach chasing tarpon, pressure on the inshore species is light.
Sarasota fishing in July
It is hot in July in Florida! However, many clients are surprised to hear that the fish and can be fantastic. The key once again is the abundance of live bait. This is an early bite. Anglers need to be out there first light and done by 10:30 or 11:00. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, sharks, jacks, ladyfish, bluefish, and other species are attracted to the chum. Snook are still thick in the passes and out on the beaches.
Tarpon are still out on the beaches as well, but the numbers are really thinning out. These late-season fish do not show as often. However, they can be a lot easier to catch. Spawning is pretty much done and many anglers have given up the chase. Floating a pin fish or crab under a float out behind the boat will catch them. Once again, this is generally an early bite due to the heat.
Sarasota fishing in August
Sarasota fishing in August is much like it was in July. Action on the deep grass flats should be very good as afternoon rains will have the water temperature down a bit. Bait fish are still plentiful and easy to catch. Chumming with live bait on the flats is a most effective and productive technique. Anglers casting lures at first light will catch fish as well.
Sharks show up on the grass flats in late July and August as well. These are the perfect size for catching, between 15 pounds and 40 pounds. The technique is fairly simple; a cut up ladyfish is put under a float and cast out behind the boat. It is then just a matter waiting for a shark to come along. I often do this at the end of a Sarasota fishing charter after we have already experience good action and are looking for a big fish to end the day.
Snook will begin moving back in from the passes and off the beaches, though plenty of fish will remain out there. Anglers do well sight fishing for snook in the morning. Tarpon numbers have really thinned out with some of the fish moving into Tampa Bay and North Sarasota Bay.
August is one of the best months to target redfish on the shallow flats in Sarasota. Redfish school up in big numbers this time of year. They can easily be seen moving over the shallow flats. A school of reds looks like a small wave going through the water. These fish can be very finicky in the shallow water. Anglers need to be quiet and make long casts in order to catch them. The flats in North Sarasota Bay are particularly productive.
Sarasota fishing in September
September is the most “tropical”month in Sarasota, Florida. It is the time of the year that the hurricanes are most active. That really affects the fishing and can make it unpredictable. When no storms are threatening, fishing can be very good. Also, it is the slowest month of the year in terms of tourist activity That means that the beaches and bays are relatively uncluttered.
Water temperature in Sarasota Bay should be in the upper 70s by mid September. Bait fish are still plentiful and chumming continues to be very productive. However, anglers casting artificial lures begin to have more success as the water cools off. Breaking fish will often times be seen feeding on the helpless bait fish.
Snook will be moving back into the bays in September. There will still be fished out on the beach and in the passes, but the backwater areas will start to produce decent numbers of fish. The same lures and baits that worked in the spring catch snook and other fish in September. Plugs and soft plastic baits are the top artificial lures. Live pilchards are tough to beat for bait. Schooling reds will still be found on the flats at Long Bar and Buttonwood Harbor.
Sarasota fishing calendar in October
October might be my favorite month to fish in Sarasota Florida! It is cooling off in the weather is usually very pleasant. For the most part, the tropical season is over. Also, between the kids been in school and outdoorsmen turning to hunting, fishing pressure is light.
When I can get the bait, I targets snook quite often in October. They are found along mangrove shorelines, under docks, along seawalls, and around oyster bars in Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay. Chumming with larger live pilchards is extremely effective. Clients also catch them early in the morning casting shallow diving plugs. Redfish and jacks will be mixed in with the snook as well.
Anglers drifting the deep grass flats and passes should do well in October. Spanish mackerel respond to the cooling water and are often quite active. Speckled trout, Pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species school up in both passes and out on the grass flats. There can literally be fish at just about every spot this time of year.
The surface action and the inshore Gulf of Mexico should get cranked up by the end of October. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and sharks are migrating back south along the Florida coast. This is very similar to the spring fishing. However, because weather patterns are bit more stable, the fall bite is generally a bit more reliable. Spanish mackerel and false albacore in particular will be gorging themselves on the way south for winter.
Sarasota fishing calendar in November
The first real cold fronts of the year will normally arrive around mid-November. Shorter days along with these fronts will have the water temperature dropping. Whatever bait fish that remained on the flats are usually gone by the end of the month. Fish will begin moving around in the bay and preparations for winter.
The bite on the deep grass flats can be excellent in November in Sarasota Bay! I’ve normally switched over to fishing primarily with jigs this time of year. Many of the fish are in the 8 foot to 10 foot range. A 1/4 ounce jig is an effective bait for getting down to the fish. Less experienced anglers do well free lining a live shrimp behind the boat. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and Pompano are the most commonly caught species.
Snook and jacks will begin easing their way back to the creeks and canals. The entrances to these areas are often a good spot to target game fish. Jacks will be schooled up and often seen foraging on the surface. This is great fun as they will eat just about anything cast in front of them.
The passes will continue to be productive as long as the water is clean. Pompano are often caught particularly on the outgoing tide with an east wind. Rocks, bridges, docks, seawalls, and other structure will hold mangrove snapper and other bottom fish. A live shrimp fished on the bottom is the best bet.
Sarasota fishing calendar in December
December will find fish moving back to their winter patterns. Cold snaps will have the water in the mid-60s. Snook and jacks will be moving back up into the residential canals in creeks. When the water is clear, action on the deep flats will be good, especially for ladyfish and bluefish. These species do not mind the cooler water as much.
Sheepshead will begin to show up in December as well. They are normally caught around oyster bars and under docks all along Siesta Key. They show up in these locations before moving out into the passes. Black drum and other bottom species will be caught as well. Speckled trout will be found on the grass flats when it is warm. However, a big drop in water temperature will have them in the channels and holes. Current Florida fishing regulations are found on the FWC site.
In conclusion, I hope to Sarasota fishing calendar helps both visiting and local anglers experience success!
Capt Jim Klopfer
1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236